Understanding the Benefits and Risks of Chemotherapy

Patients should weigh the potential benefits and risks of chemotherapy in conjunction with a cancer specialist, like an oncologist, said Hassett, whose team is working on a study that will examine whether chemotherapy leads women to retire or go on long-term disability.

But are patients getting enough information? Griggs says it's hard to know how much information to share. "We usually prepare them for the most common side effects, such as hair loss, fatigue, and nausea, but we try not to tell patients that they definitely will get nauseated" because one of the biggest predictors of nausea is thinking you'll get it, she explained.

"I do think that we need to continue to enhance our support of our patients when they call our offices with questions or symptoms," Griggs added. "So many physician offices are increasingly busy with more patients and more complex chemotherapy and other treatment regimens that some offices may have a difficult time providing support to patients who call us with questions."

More information

For more on chemotherapy, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

SOURCES: Michael Hassett, M.D., M.P.H., instructor in medicine, Harvard Medical School, and medical oncologist, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston; Jennifer J. Griggs, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor, Department of Internal Medicine, and director, Breast Cancer Survivorship Program, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor; Journal of the National Cancer Institute; American Society of Clinical Oncology, Alexandria, Va.; U.S. National Cancer Institute

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